JE: I did a panel in Minneapolis with Geoff Jennings of Rainy Day Books. The guy was amazing, one of the most passionate and charismatic advocates of the printed word I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to. This guy is a total taste-maker. He’s relentless! His customers leave with stacks of books, sweating with excitement (and they never even look at the price tags!). Geoffrey Jennings doesn’t merely sell books, he champions them. It’s our pleasure to bring you his Why We Love What We Do essay.
Why We Love What We Do – Geoffrey Jennings
As an independent bookseller, I am always interested in stories. When I’m talking with a customer about a book, I’m thinking to myself about three stories: the writer’s, the book’s, and the customer’s. The best outcome isn’t just that I make the sale, it’s that the customer likes the book enough to tell someone else about it. One bookseller can’t possibly sell every single copy of an author’s book. We can start the onversation about a book. At our best, booksellers are evangelists.
I look at the whole chain of connections when I’m selling a book. I like to know the author, the editor, the publisher, all the people involved in the process. I know that each one of these people has invested a lot of energy into the book. Just as I want the customer to talk about the book, I want to know as much as possible about the way the book came to be. It helps me think about the book in different ways; sell it differently to different people. Once I am talking with that customer, I’m thinking about their time, their desires, their ability to influence further than I can. I tell them not just about the book, but why I feel the book is right for them, and hints about who else might enjoy it.
I’ve heard independent booksellers compared to curators at an art gallery, but I think the better analogy is that we are readers who are simply so passionate about reading that we need to talk about it. Many people think that book clubs are a new phenomenon, but literary salons and discussions about literature predate the existence of the codex. All throughout history, there have been people who are committed to promoting literacy and sharing their knowledge of great books. It’s more than a job to me, it’s a part of the process of bringing a book to life. Ultimately, by the time the book is in my hands, it’s up to me to guide it to the right people. Just as it has been carefully crafted, so too is it sold with equal passion.
- Why We Love What We Do – Jennifer Tyler (threeguysonebook.com)
- Why We Love What We Do: Emily Pullen (threeguysonebook.com)
- How to Impress Booksellers (mediabistro.com)
- Trendspotting 2011: Daniel Goldin (publishingtrends.com)